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MP Menzies Says His Goodbyes In His Departing Speech

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has said his goodbyes in an emotional in the House Of Commons. n a lengthy address the now Independent MP said:

‘After 14 years, I still have not worked out how to write a beautiful speech. Listening to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) reminds me of how eloquent he is, and he will be a sad loss to this House.

My entry into politics as a wee boy from Ardrossan—you come from Paisley, Madam Deputy Speaker, so you will appreciate this—was something of an unconventional background. I was influenced by the colossus that was Margaret Thatcher. I was influenced by a grandmother who would shout at the television when Ted Heath was on. I was influenced by a mother who would walk through picket lines to get to work, because she had to work to keep a roof over her head. We were a single-parent family, and she was a grafter who always did the right thing.

And I was influenced by the Scottish National party councillor across the road—a woman called Marjorie Forrest, who is still alive to this day. I was influenced by seeing election posters appear in the window, and I wondered what they were. I would see loud speakers appear on top of her car, and I wondered what they were. I thought that politics and campaigning was something everyone did, because I saw it in the house opposite, but I also saw desperate people going to her to get help on simple matters that, for a person in desperate need, was life-changing. I have carried that desire to help people with me ever since.

As the many Members in this Chamber know, that is not always seen by the press and the media, and we do not often share it publicly because we see people at their lowest, their most vulnerable, their most frightened and their most scared. We often see people when we are the last port of call and, because we are the last port of call, each and every one of us does everything we can to turn their situation around. We can all think of situations where we have done that, which makes me incredibly proud.

I also think of how I got here. Had I followed the path of least resistance, I would have joined the Labour party in Scotland because, by that time, we were down to 10 seats, and then we went down to none. But I was a Conservative, so I was my association’s deputy chairman. I was president of Glasgow University Conservative club. I fought for Michael Forsyth in Stirling in 1992, and again in 1997. That defeat in 1997 really hurt, and I thought, “Never again shall we see that.”

The first seat I contested was Glasgow Govan. The saying goes, “I fought Dagenham, and Dagenham fought back.” Trust me, there is a thing called a Glasgow kiss Toggle showing location of Column 1233that involves the forehead and no other part of the anatomy. I luckily avoided the Glasgow kiss, but I had a few close shaves.

The day after the election, I woke up in my hotel room at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, pulled back the curtains and said to mum, “That is my constituency over there.” And she said, “Not any more, it’s not. If was your constituency yesterday, but the election has been and gone. You have no connection with it anymore.” That was not the first time that my mother brought me back down to earth with a bang.

The reality is that we build up relationships through the campaigning we do. We are identified as being the Conservative candidate or the Conservative MP. We take on issues that we never otherwise would. We take on issues that we never otherwise would. We do it because of our role, but when that role gets taken away—as is its very nature—some of those relationships will change. That for me will be one of the things I will find very hard.

I fought Selby in 2005, and I was supposed to win. Michael Howard even came to Selby to close the national election, and that same night Tony Blair went to Scarborough to close Labour’s campaign; so my advice to any candidate in the selection is to not have the Leader of the Opposition in your constituency on the eve of the poll if you are a Labour MP and think you will win or the Prime Minister if you are a Tory MP and think you will win. We gained Scarborough and we lost Selby. Take it from me, sometimes candidates are best left on your own.

I failed to get reselected for Selby. I was supposed to be fast-tracked and all the rest of it, but I was not. That was a painfully low point for me. My mum came into my bedroom one Saturday morning, and my duvet was over my head—I had been having my duvet over my head a lot recently—and she said, “Listen, you fought two parliamentary seats. Most people never get to fight one.” Those were her words of wisdom. She was trying to be helpful, but I responded by saying, “No, I fought two parliamentary seats and the next one I fight I am going to win.” That became my sole focus and my drive and determination.

I was blessed that I got Fylde, a seat that I had never been to before in my life until I applied, to be honest, but one I naturally fitted with. It is a beautiful constituency and one with so much diversity. It has everything from BAE Systems, which is building the Typhoon fighter jet, to Westinghouse, which makes nearly all of the UK’s nuclear fuel, and so many other diverse businesses. It is also very beautiful. People look at Lytham St Annes on a map, next to Blackpool, and think it must be a challenging place, shall we say, but it is not. Madam Deputy Speaker, you have talked about your visits to the Clifton Arms Hotel in Lytham, which is certainly a very fine establishment. Lytham St Annes continues to go from strength to strength. It is not posh Blackpool, it is Lytham St Annes.

There are many other fine towns in the constituency. I was very proud to be able to secure regeneration money for Kirkham and see the town on the up. I had leaders of the council and various other people tell me multiple times that the M55 link road would never happen—that it was too complicated, that there were just too many different funding pots that kept flooding Toggle showing location of Column 1234about. I said, “I will get that link road built.” It nearly killed me. It took me 10 years. But that link road is opening next month. It was something that others found too complicated, too boring or too detailed, but that is my legacy, because sometimes boring and detailed is what makes the wheels turn. So when people drive over that M55 link road, just spare a little thought for me.

The timing of my departure, unlike for some people, was not entirely of my choosing. There was much work I intended to carry on. I say to whoever succeeds me that I will stay out of their way or I will give advice—it is entirely up to them. That applies to whether that person is from my party or another. When I became a Member of Parliament, I got no support from my predecessor, to be frank. I came in here one night, feeling like Cinderella. I had three big bags and had been invited to a reception—the first of many—but I was sat up in a Committee Room with three giant sacks of mail.

The only reason I knew I had mail was that I saw people come in with these green envelopes. I went down to the post office that used to be down here and said, “Have I got any mail by any chance?” He said, “Oh yes, Mr Menzies, you have a lot of mail.” When I asked how much, he said, “This much”, and there were three sacks. I was set up their opening it all, so I know what it feels like at the start. My advice to any new Member starting is to find that mail as soon as you can.

We have talked about campaigns and the things we have secured, and we have talked about casework. As other Members have said, the people who deliver that are our parliamentary staff. I have been blessed to have had some of the most outstanding and loyal people over the last 14 years, which I appreciate now more than ever. Shirley has been my office manager from day one, and Adam has been with me for the last five years. I also have Liam, Roger Small and Max Smith. They are the team who go out day in, day out, do the detailed work and make me look good. They allow me to go on foreign trips or do stuff on a Select Committee while casework is being done. When I have been looking after my mum, they have allowed me not to be here while casework is being done.

Some of my earlier staff are now earning multiple times what I earn. Maybe that is because I recruited bright, talented people, or maybe it is just because MPs are not destined to earn a lot of money, but the one thing that is sure is that all my staff will be earning a lot more money than I will be in a few weeks’ time, even the most junior member. With that in mind, I have to think about looking to the future. I say to my staff: you are brilliant people. Whatever you go on to do, people will be very lucky to have you.

We, too, are lucky to have the people who support us in our roles, be they the Doorkeepers, who are incredibly polite and who know more about what is going on in this place than anyone else, or the people who work in the Tea Room and keep us fed. I think back to the horrible day when PC Keith Palmer was murdered during the terrorist attack on Westminster bridge. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) and I left Parliament and got to the rope line at Lambeth bridge. Gladys, the elderly lady who works in the Tea Room, was waiting behind the rope line, because she wanted to make sure that her Members were okay. That Toggle showing location of Column 1235is the level of dedication. It is not about making bits of toast; it is about caring. My goodness, the staff of this House care.

I would like to point out that the people who work in health and wellbeing, which is not always talked about and which, until recently, was not as good as it should have been for Members, have helped many people, including me. The pressure on MPs is extraordinary, regardless of whether it comes from the long hours, being away from family, the demands on us or social media. That pressure is huge, so I urge the parliamentary authorities to keep investing in health and wellbeing, and to look after MPs, be they those who are currently serving or those who will come into this House after the next election. They should be nurtured and cherished, because they are people who want to do good, but they are also fragile souls.

In my time here, I have never been a Minister. I started off by being a PPS. My first Minister got sacked and my second Minister got sacked, so when I was appointed as Sir Alan Duncan’s PPS, he was frightened, because my track record was not a good one. Where I came into my own was being a trade envoy. Again, my advice to colleagues coming into Parliament after the next election is that you should sometimes be polite, but also know when to stamp your feet, because occasionally—just occasionally—the squeaky wheel gets oiled. It was after the 2017 election that I thought, “Stuff this. I want to be doing something.” So I created merry hell about my desire to become a trade envoy. To be fair, the right hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) phoned me up the next day and said, “I know you want to be trade envoy for Argentina, but we’re going to appoint you trade envoy for Colombia, Peru and Chile. How do you feel about that?” I bit his hand off. Argentina was then added a year later.

I have served as trade envoy for seven years. At the time of Brexit and huge change in this country, it was something that was incredibly relevant, and I felt really privileged to be out there batting for British business, sometimes really small businesses. When I was in Colombia in February, we were helping a cheese supplier from the constituency of Mr Deputy Speaker, the right hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans), to enter the Colombian market. That is a small supplier entering the global stage as a result of what we do.

As trade envoy, I secured the largest ever infrastructure deal in Latin America. I was the chairman of the UK-Peru infrastructure taskforce and we secured a £1.7 billion infrastructure deal, the largest in living memory. With the help of Sir Mark Kent, who is now the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, we also got Argentina to unilaterally drop its whisky tariff, boosting Scotch exports. Experts—we should always be careful of experts—told me that that would not happen. They had been working on it for years and they thought Argentina would want something in return. Sometimes you draw on your past experiences, and my experience of working in retail is that sometimes you put forward a simple offer or a simple ask and you make them see that the numbers stack up. We did that and, three weeks later, Argentina signed the unilateral Toggle showing location ofColumn 1236dropping of Scotch whisky tariffs. My advice to people is, “If someone tells you something is too difficult or complicated, don’t believe them.”

Some of the best advice I got in my early days as an MP was, “Be kind to the House and the House will be kind to you.” I have seen people who on occasion have not been kind to the House fall by the wayside. My dear friend Sir David Amess, whom I miss terribly to this day, was incredibly kind to me. I would go and see him, often daily, and we would chat things over. He was always there as a stalwart support. He said to me, “Don’t try and be too clever; never be too political, because sometimes that boot will be kicking your backside.” He was right. Sometimes we hold strongly different views, not just from Opposition Members but from those on our own side—take Brexit, for example—but there is much more that unites us than divides us.

I will try to bring my comments to some sort of natural conclusion—this is where I wish I had allowed Adam to write my speech. The one thing that has kept me going is the privilege of serving Fylde. My constituents are fantastic, kind, Lancashire people who want the best for their communities. I always strove to deliver that for them. The Fylde that I leave behind is a better Fylde than I inherited. Many people will be able to say that about their respective constituencies.

I would also like to thank the people who took me on the many trips over the years. I was once accused by the media of being the second most travelled MP in Parliament. I objected strongly from Gibraltar. A lot of the travel I did—my trade envoy work and my Inter-Parliamentary Union work, for example—was not something that would appear on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In actual fact, I got more than my fair share of trips. As a result, I became a more rounded and well-balanced Member of Parliament. It allowed me to see a broader view.

I thank Sir Mark Kent, whom I met in Argentina, who is now chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association, for allowing me to see how top-quality ambassadors work. I thank people such as His Royal Highness Prince Sultan and Prince Khalid at the Saudi embassy for opening my eyes to a country that I knew nothing about but which my constituency depended on for jobs. I have more people working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia than any other Member in this House because of the aerospace defence relationship.

I also thank the Inter-Parliamentary Union for opening my eyes to some of the most interesting things in the world. Anyone who has ever been on an IPU or Commonwealth Parliamentary Association trip will always come away much better informed. Rick Nimmo, Dominique Rees and the team have done tremendous work in that field.

For the last seven years, I served as chairman of both the all-party parliamentary group on Latin America and the APPG on Saudi Arabia. That is something on which I feel fulfilled leaving this House. I have also spent time on Select Committees. I joined the Transport Committee thinking we were going to get lots of travel, but the furthest we got was Vauxhall bridge to check vehicle emissions, and that was after two and a half years. We did travel, though, with the International Development Committee, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley, and I also went to New Toggle showing location ofColumn 1237York with some great people on the Scottish Affairs Committee a few weeks ago. We were flying the flag for the UK.

It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in this place. The wee boy from Ardrossan, where people told me when I was growing up, “Just don’t get carried away. If you ever become a councillor, you’re doing well. People like you don’t become MPs.” My mum worked in an explosives factory for 32 years and was a member of a trade union. She was widowed a month before I was born and brought me up on her own. “People like that don’t have sons who become Conservative MPs.” Well, I did and I have. I have served this place well, I think, for the last 14 years. I will miss it terribly. I do intend to be one of the sad gits walking around with an orange pass, so you have not seen the last of me.

I also want to say that I would not have been here without my family, and my family is my mother. She encouraged me when I was growing up, and she encouraged me when the chips were down. Over the last three years, she has been in hospital 38 times. She has almost died five times and officially been put on end of life twice. She is 89 but she is still going strong. If my mum can cope with all that, get through adversity and demonstrate what true resilience looks like, so too can I.

I do not know what the future holds for me, but I am optimistic, because the experiences and friendships that I have earned in this place will do nothing but stand me in good stead. Some things I would change, for sure, but the majority of it I would not. It has been an honour and a privilege. You are my friends; you are my family. I will miss you, but I will see you around. Thank you very much, and God bless.’

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